Rep. Jason Crow Hosts Field Hearing to Talk about Innovation in the School to Small Business Pipeline
Last month, Rep. Jason Crow (CO-06) as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Innovation and Workforce Development held a small business field hearing at the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus to discuss how Colorado is embracing new and innovative approaches towards educating young people and creating a school-to-business pipeline.
The hearing gave Chairman Crow the chance to hear about innovative approaches to address workforce shortages for small businesses from the Cherry Creek School System, CareerWise Colorado, the Outdoor Industry Association, and Colorado Journeyman & Apprentice Program.
As Colorado goes into the 11th year of economic expansion, the state has been hit hard by the workforce shortage and 86 percent of Colorado employers see the skills gap as a threat to their business. This could undermine Colorado’s competitiveness as businesses look to shift their operations abroad. To address this, the state has partnered with CareerWise Colorado to create a statewide youth-apprenticeship system to address their skills gap, workforce shortage, and high cost of four-year colleges and universities. As traditional educational pathways are not fully giving students the skills they need, new facilities, like the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus, prepares students for the academic and professional demands of the 21st century, providing pathways in advanced manufacturing, business services, health and wellness, hospitality and tourism, building trades, and transportation.
“Over the past decade, our economy has seen a dramatic shift in terms of workforce needs, especially here in Colorado. Similar to many economic metrics, Colorado is leading the way with a 2.7 percent unemployment rate, even lower in Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District, more than a full percentage point below the national average.”said Chairman Crow. “But the ability to continue to expand is hindered by ongoing problems my colleagues and I on the Small Business Committee hear from many small businesses who are unable to find qualified workers to meet their needs.”
“Our success in the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus has been creating meaningful relationships with industry partners and higher education to provide our students with curriculum and instruction grounded in real-world experiences,” said Sarah Grobbel, Assistant Superintendent of Career & Innovation at the Cherry Creek School District. “We ask that as a committee, you continue to include K-12 education in workforce development discussions, so we can continue to grow with you in these conversations and encourage local businesses to engage with their community educational partners.”
“If you take anything away from today’s field hearing it should be this, apprenticeship — in particular youth apprenticeship — can be transformational,” said Noel Ginsburg, Founder and CEO of CareerWise. “It can transform our workforce and talent pipelines. It can transform our economy and middle class. And, most importantly, it can transform the lives of our young people through opportunity.”
“We welcome the efforts being undertaken by the Committee to promote American small businesses and to create a legislative and regulatory environment where they can prosper and continue to grow. In the outdoor industry, the success of those small businesses relies heavily on a strong workforce, growth in outdoor recreation participation, access to outdoor spaces, fair and balanced trade, conservation of public lands, and protection of our climate,” said Matt Kaplan, Vice President of Membership & Business Development of the Outdoor Industry Association.
“For years, the interest in trades was overshadowed by the push for high school graduates to transition directly into a University or College environment. This created a shortage of individuals who enter into skilled trades. Trades no longer became an option for students. The benefits of apprenticeships were left unknown to a new generation, thus creating a shortage of individuals coming into the trades,” said Garry Edmonson, Program Administrator for Colorado Journeyman & Apprenticeship Program IUOE Local 9. “We now have an opportunity to change that direction. Pathways from high school are critical to continuing to provide growth in apprenticeship programs and trade businesses.”
“I am hopeful for the future because we are working together to revolutionize workforce development and create new and innovative school-to-business pipelines” saidChairman Crow. “This is where business, government, and educational institutions can come together to work on programs that educate, train, re-train, and create a workforce for the 21st century economy. That, along with supporting affordable access to capital, entrepreneurial development programs, and innovation will allow our small businesses to thrive in our communities.”